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Full text of "[untitled] The American Historical Review, (1899-12-01), pages 383-384"

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Urdahl : The Fee System of the United States 383 

analyzed and criticized. The constitution of 1 796, though extolled by 
Jefferson as "the least imperfect and most republican " of the state con- 
stitutions, Mr. Caldwell regards as far from democratic, though he takes 
issue sharply with Phelan, who asserts that it was " unre publican and 
unjust in the highest degree." Its chief defect was its reservation of too 
much power to the legislature. "The constitution of 1834," he says, 
"is the only constitution that the people of Tennessee ever have made. 
It is the only one of the three state constitutions that was the product of 
conditions existing in the state at the time when it was enacted." The 
author recognizes, though he does not, I believe, sufficiently emphasize, 
the force of the wave of democratic sentiment that swept over the coun- 
try in the years about 1830 — a wave that in some form or other went over 
the civilized world. The difference between the constitution of 1796 
and that of 1834 was as much the result of this wave as of the changed 
conditions in Tennessee. 

The constitution of 1870 had for its real, though not ostensible, pur- 
pose the enfranchisement of the disfranchised, and was thought even by 
its framers to be only temporary. Despite the fact that it is unsuited to 
the present needs of the state, the state continues to endeavor to live, 
move, and have its being under it. It is, I believe, an open secret that 
these studies were first published with a view to creating or deepening an 
impression in favor of a new constitution, and Mr. Caldwell pleads earn- 
estly and forcibly for his cause. There is one point on this line that de- 
serves especial mention: "Local self-government," says our author, 
"has always been the favorite phrase and theory of the South, but . . . 
the South has less of local self-government than any other section of our 
•country, and there is no Southern state that has less of it than Tennessee. ' ' 
There are several portraits in the book, also lists of the members of all 
the conventions. 

Edmund C. Burnett. 



The Fee System of the United States. By Thomas K. Urdahl, Ph.D. 
(Madison, Wisconsin. 1898. Pp. xii, 193). 

This monograph, prepared by the writer as a doctoral dissertation at 
the University of Wisconsin, is an excellent presentation of the American 
fee system in its historical development from early colonial times, with 
a thorough examination of the present situation. It is written chiefly 
from the standpoints of finance and administration, with occasional 
attempts, however, to relate the changes taking place in the fee system 
to changes in political and economic conditions. It is altogether a 
satisfactory and enlightening treatment of a somewhat dry and technical 
subject. 

A preliminary chapter discusses questions of definition, classification, 
and principle. The author argues for the recognition of fees as a cate- 
gory of public revenue distinct from taxes, on grounds that have com- 
mended themselves to the best modern students. The existence of 



384 Reviews of Books 

individual benefit is the criterion of the fee, the reverse being true of the 
tax. Value of service rather than cost of service is claimed to be the 
true measure of benefit, Dr. Urdahl not sharing the opinion of Wagner 
and others that, whenever a payment exceeds the cost of a service under- 
taken by government, it ceases to be a fee and becomes a tax. He points 
out that a large class of fees is merely payment for privilege, e. g. , license 
fees, where the expense of service is merely trifling. 

A second set of preliminary chapters gives an instructive survey of 
the fee system of England and Europe from medieval times. This opens 
the way to the study of the American system. This study is exhaustive 
and minute, and cannot easily be summarized in a brief review. The 
fee was the most important part of the colonial financial system, inasmuch 
as most offices were self-supporting. This was in harmony with the then- 
accepted "social contract" theory and the actual social conditions. 
"Service and counter-service was the theory on which the entire method 
of remunerating public officials was based" (p. 121). The special 
characteristic of the period, 1787 to 1830, was the great mass and diver- 
sity of fees imposed by the states for regulation. There was no uni- 
formity of system within the states or between them. It was an era of 
special legislation. The main characteristics of the next period, 1830 to 
1865, were the growth in the volume and importance of incorporation 
fees, and the increased use of fees in local finance. Taking these two 
periods together and adding the following years to the present time, the 
chief tendency to be noticed and explained is the passage from the primi- 
tive fee-system of colonial days to the modern salary system. " The 
forces which make this change necessary and desirable, lie in the eco- 
nomic conditions of a rapidly growing and progressive community " (p. 
148). This evolution is interestingly traced in state and federal statutes, 
and is also shown to be reflected in the changes in state constitutions. 

The concluding chapter of the monograph is concerned with an ex- 
amination of the fee-system as a social force. The author shows clearly 
how our ill-conceived fee-system is frequently responsible for the mis- 
carriage of justice and maladministration and corruption in other depart- 
ments of government. Suggestive applications are made to the divorce 
problem, tramp question, etc. The chapter is heartily to be commended 
to social and political reformers, and the whole monograph should be re- 
membered as a worthy addition to our historical literature of administra- 
tion and finance. 

A. C. Miller. 

The Annual Report of the American Historical Association for the 
Year 1898 (Washington, Government Printing Office) is a volume of 
745 pages. A large part of it, perhaps 200 pages, is occupied with the 
report of the proceedings at the New Haven meeting, and with papers 
read upon that occasion. Of those proceedings, an account has already 
been given in this Review, (IV. 409-422), and some of the papers read 
were summarized in that article. The inaugural address by Professor